For the third year in a row, the Surrey Eagles stand in the way of the Langley Chiefs’ post-season dreams.
Two years ago, it was the Eagles emerging with the series win, while last year, Langley returned the favour.
Both those times it was a first-round playoff battle, but this year’s winner advances to the BCHL Coastal Conference championship series.
Games one and two are Monday and Tuesday at the South Surrey Arena, with the series coming to the Langley Events Centre for games three and four next Thursday and Friday.
“I think the teams are pretty evenly matched,” said Chiefs coach and general manager Harvey Smyl.
“They have a little better record than us, and against us this year, but we will hopefully be able to play to our potential and put up a little bit of a match.”
“We approached the last series as each game individually, and we are going into the game on (Monday) and that’s it,” he said. “We are not worried about the series, we are just focused on winning one game (at a time).”
The Eagles finished second in the Coastal Conference with 73 points (35-22-1-2), three better than the Chiefs (31-21-1-7).
Head-to-head, Surrey won six games of the nine games, with two of those victories coming in overtime.
However, the teams have not faced off in six weeks.
“I don’t think it really matters where anyone sits in the standings when these two teams play,” Smyl said.
“Underdog or not, there is always a sense of urgency from teams which makes some pretty damn good hockey.
Both teams are coming off first round playoff sweeps, the Chiefs over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs — they won game four on Tuesday 6-5 in overtime when Josh Hansen potted the winner — and the Eagles over the Coquitlam Express.
During Langley’s sweep — they won 5-4 in overtime, 3-1, 5-1 and 6-5 — the Chiefs only trailed for a combined 84 seconds of the series’ 266:19.
A big reason was the goaltending of Wyatt Galley, whose numbers dropped in the post-season to a 2.48 goals against and a 0.936 save percentage. During the season, those numbers were 3.52 and .904.
Smyl said his goaltender played extremely well as Langley was outshot all four games.
“He looked very, very composed,” he said.
But as good as those numbers were, Surrey’s Karel St. Laurent was even better, allowing five goals in four games, for a 1.25 GAA and a 0.957 save percentage.
The Chiefs will have to hope their offensive depth can come through.
Sixteen of the 18 players registered points, while 13 scored at least one goal.
Matt Ius (three goals, six assists) and captain Trevor Gerling (three goals, three assists) led the way.
Like they were during the regular season, Surrey was led by a pair of Langley Minor Hockey Association products, Brad McGowan and Richard Vanderhoek. McGowan, who finished third in the BCHL regular season scoring race with 89 points, had four goals and five assists against the Express.
Vanderhoek leads all players with six goals in the playoffs. He also has two assists.
One area the Chiefs will need to improve on is the penalty kill.
Alberni Valley went 6-for-23 with the man advantage. Langley was at least able to match the Bulldogs, scoring six power play goals of their own. But Surrey was 5-for-19 with the man advantage, while their penalty kill was perfect, stopping all 26 Express chances.